Dogs Meeting for the First Time
When people meet for the first time it is polite to be face to face and make good eye contact, but this is not ideal for dogs meeting for the first time. It is not natural for dogs to meet this way, but time and time again owners feel the need to push two dogs together on leash to “say hi”. Dogs meeting for the first time this way will experience more anxiety, excitement and nervousness which can lead to frustration, leash aggression and even dog aggression or other social anxieties.
First and foremost you should always be an advocate for your dog. You are your dog’s protector, not the other way around and it is up to you to protect them from situations where they feel unsafe. This means you need to speak up and stop the person approaching with dogs on flexi leads lunging and barking while they head directly for you and your dog and shout out “it’s ok, they’re friendly, they just want to say hi!” If this person is you, it is not ok, so stop it.
Dogs are naturally migratory animals so the way I like dogs meeting for the first time is with movement. First assess the other owner and dog’s energy. If they are over excited, pulling, or staring intensely that’s when I will smile, tell the other owner my dogs are in training and maybe they can meet next time. If they are calm and relaxed then going for a walk together is a great way for your dogs to be introduced. Remember, movement dissipates stress. This means that while walking together they can learn about each other with their noses while their excitement level has time to come down.
If your plan is to go off leash with the dogs I still prefer to start out walking on leash and when both dogs are relaxed dropping the leashes without breaking stride. When dogs meeting for the first time are off leash it is ideal to be in a neutral location with lots of new smells. Again keep moving as a pack and keep their noses engaged. You know your dog best, but even though they are friendly it does not mean that others will be ok with them. Never assume that the other owner wants the dogs to meet and always do what is best for your dog.